Two too many people died riding bikes this year in NSW. Apart from being an awkward thing to say (two too?) it’s no doubt true. But does two people in a population of 7.5 million constitute the kind of crisis that needs a crackdown? Well yes. Enter, Operation Pedro 5.
Apart from the obvious questions about Pedro 5 (there was a Pedro 1-4? where have I been?) the next most obvious question is, why? Why focus on a group of people so small my calculator gives up trying to display the answer in a meaningful manner. (What does e-5 even mean?)
Here’s how it went down last Friday on Operation Pedro 5.
Why focus on helmets? People die wearing bicycle helmets. In fact, more cyclist die wearing helmets than not wearing helmets. According to Bicycle NSW data (I know, can we trust them? they’re cyclists right?) almost everyone who died in 2010 was wearing a helmet. You have to wonder just how much protection you get from one inch of styrofoam. It’s almost like it’s not a magic halo. Certainly no match for a bus travelling at 80km/hr.
Pedro 5 was also (apparently) focussed on pedestrians. And at least those bastards die in meaningful numbers. Forty-one people stepped in front a bus/car/amphibious attack vehicle last year. Probably none were wearing helmets.
I’m going to take a punt and say very few pedestrians careened out of control and wrapped themselves around a tree. I’m supposing (stay with me) that those pedestrians were in fact killed by motor vehicles. That’s important to know, because in this scenario pedestrians aren’t actually the problem. Motor vehicles are. I’d hazard a guess and say the same thing more-or-less applies to cyclists.
Given the relative safety of cycling over walking, it’s surprising to see 80% of fines were handed to cyclists. And by far the biggest target was failure to wear helmets. Despite the figures.
Oh, I’m sure helmets prevent some degree of trauma. That’s why people who drive cars are required to wear helmets all the time. Wait…they do don’t they? Really? Are you fucking mad? It’s just us? Cyclists? But head injuries from car crashes make up something like half of all head trauma. And according to this Monash study we could save up to half a billion dollars a year if people wore helmets in cars.
Wow, the world is such a curious and wonderful place. It’s almost like some sort of weird bias against cyclists is at work. How else would you explain so much energy and resouces allocated to targeting insignificant statistical aberrations (two cycle deaths) when you can save half a billion dollars by targeting drivers?
I’d spend the money on building a wall against Mexicans, which is what we call anyone south of the border here in Queensland. I’ll leave a portal through which cyclists can pass. It’ll have bollards in the middle of the path like they always do around here. Because nothing is safer for cyclists than a pole in the middle of the bike track.
I might even build some cycling infrastructure with my money. Given that cyclists aren’t really the menace we thought they were, removing them from out of the way of cars and lorrys seems like the logical next step. They’ll be proper bicycle lanes too. Not just a bit of paint on the side of the road for cars to drive in when they need a better view of the traffic ahead. I’ll put a meaningful barrier between cyclists and cars so the cars can’t kill the cyclists every time they need to text and drive.
I doubt I’ll even need to have mandatory helmet laws for bikes. What point? Most people only cycle at about walking pace. (I know! How do they do it? I’ve tried cycling behind these people and it’s not physically possible to ride so slowly.)
Just as well. Imagine how hard it’ll be to get a helmet when car drivers start buying them. At least for a while. Then we’ll get unprecedented investment in helmet technology and we might even get beyond the quaint practice of clamping insulating materials to our head.
If you can bear to watch it, the video below has some interesting stuff to say about helmet technology.
Phew, that was dry.
I envision a future where pricks like the NSW government and police don’t target us just because they hate us. I see a future in which people ride bikes for daily transport in environments where they don’t dodge cars and trucks. I see a future where cycling is considered so safe we don’t mandate helmets. No wait. That’s not the future. That’s the fucking Netherlands. We’ve got bicycle ID and mandatory helmets. We’ve got police crackdowns and increased fines. We’ve got something that sounds exactly like the opposite of the Netherlands.